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What Is a Gerbil’s Favorite Food?

Last Updated: 26.02.20


Besides the dedicated feed that should be given to gerbils for the right nutritional balance, these pets are known to enjoy celery, carrots, pears, bananas, apples, and even plain popcorn from time to time. However, treats should be given in limited amounts, and if you are looking for a way to entertain them as well, you can find more info here

While it’s true that gerbils are not as popular as Syrian hamsters, they are still popular pets, especially for families with children. There are many reasons for which these little guys are among the top choices for parents. They are fascinating to have around and watch, they also live longer compared to hamsters, and they are less likely to bite, thanks to their calm nature. 

If you’ve decided that getting a gerbil is what you are going to do next, you might ask yourself what the best way is to take care of him or her, and what favorite foods and treats should be taken into account. Every person who has had small rodents knows that they love getting treats, but this should not get out of hand. 

Only limited amounts of favorite foods should be given. Otherwise, there’s a risk that pelleted food is going to be ignored, and this is the one that ensures the nutritional balance your pet needs. On the other hand, any gerbil owner needs to create a diversified diet for the little guy to be both happy and healthy. 

Some pet owners simply give their pets a regular standard seed mix, but while these alternatives are certainly important, they should not be everything your gerbil eats. Most of the commercial mixes meet the nutritional requirements, so they are one of the primary foods. On the other hand, cereal, wheat, dry pasta, oats, or millet also make a great addition to the diet. 

Since gerbils are omnivores, they can also get crickets, mealworms, seeds, nuts, and timothy hay. These provide additional proteins which are sometimes lacking in some of the pet food you can find in stores. 



As we’ve already mentioned, treats should be given occasionally, so that your pet doesn’t reject other types of food that are important from a nutritional point of view. However, no one says that the little guy shouldn’t enjoy some great-tasting treats, especially when you are spending a bit of time together and bonding. 

There are commercial alternatives that you can go for, so you should look for these in pet shops. On the other hand, certain fruits and vegetables are also highly appreciated by the adorable little fellows, including carrots, peas, celery, string beans, cooked potatoes, pears, apples, and bananas. 

Another type of treat that many gerbil owners use when they want to get their pet’s attention is plain popcorn. The only thing you need to be aware of in this case is that the popcorn really needs to be plain. Any type of flavor might be harmful to your gerbil, so you shouldn’t test anything out. 

There are also some types of fresh foods you should steer clear of, such as citrus fruits or spinach. The substances these contain can lead to digestive issues and these are never fun in the case of rodents. Another piece of advice on this matter – you need to make sure that any fruit or vegetable is washed before feeding it to your pet. 

Fresh food has another particularity – namely that is can go bad pretty quickly. As rodents have the habit of hiding some of their food in the bedding, you should only give them small portions of fresh food to avoid any ingestion of leftover food. 



Dried mixes 

Although there are many types of small rodents that enrich our lives and homes, there are significant differences between them, especially when it comes to their dietary needs. For this reason, when you choose a dry mix or pelleted food, you should make sure that it was specially formulated for the type of rodent you have at home. 

Many alternatives on the market are specifically tailored to meet the nutritional needs to gerbils, so there’s really no need to go for food created for hamsters, especially since doing this over a longer period can lead to nutritional imbalances. 

As you are browsing through the various gerbil food alternatives you should also keep in mind that getting it from a known brand is the right approach. You can take your time and research this for a bit or you can simply ask the seller at the local pet store what food brands are known for the quality of their products. 


Nuts & seeds that gerbils can eat 

As you probably imagine, these cute rodents cannot rely on a diet that consists of dry grains only. It’s important to create a diverse and exciting one so that your pet remains happy and you enjoy the longest time possible together. You can think about how you would feel if you would have to eat the same thing for every meal over a long period or your entire life. Not fun, right? 

Of course, ensuring a diet that consists of many different elements and ingredients also reduces the risk of any nutritional deficiency that might otherwise appear. For this reason, while the standard gerbil mix is definitely the base food to go for, you can make it more exciting by adding an assortment of seeds and nuts. 

Among the safe options for gerbils you can find unsalted peanuts, sunflower seeds, and monkey nuts. These can be simply scattered around the cage to raise interest and encourage your pet’s natural behavior. However, if you want to bond, they can also be hand-fed as you are handling the little fellow. 


Fruits & vegetables

We’ve already covered those fruits and vegetables that can be safely considered treats, but there are many other alternatives that you can consider to create the right diet for your pet. The main thing you should keep in mind is that any type of fresh food should be tested before being introduced in the diet for the first time. 

In fact, this applies to any type of food, fresh or dry, and any significant diet change, such as going for a new mix. Rodents have rather sensitive digestive systems, so anything needs to be gradually included. In the case of fresh food, you can start out by giving very small amounts at first and waiting for a day to see if any sign might tell that something is not ok. 

Another very important aspect when it comes to this process is never introducing more than one new element at a time in your pet’s diet. This way, if anything goes wrong, you will know that cause, which makes matters a lot easier in case medical treatment is necessary. 

Plants from the onion family should be avoided since they are toxic for gerbils, and the same goes for rhubarb and raw potatoes. 



Fruit twigs

Just like any other rodent, gerbils have teeth that constantly grow throughout the animal’s life. This means that they need to be kept short and trimmed for proper dental health. As rodents kept in a cage cannot find those items that they can chew on to get this done, as they would if living in the wild, you need to provide the tools to keep the teeth under control. 

Gnawing on various tough food items is the way to do this, and you should know that gerbils also love chewing on wood, so they are going to enjoy this very much. The alternatives you can safely go for are pear wood, apple wood, as well as spine-free raspberry canes. 

Also make sure that the wood is either bought from a pet store and it’s specially made for rodents, or that it comes from a reliable source and that it’s free from any chemicals or toxic substances. 


 A few words for a healthy diet 

First of all, gerbils need and should have constant access to clean drinking water. You need to check the water bottle every day and see if any blockages or leaks might prevent your pet from being properly hydrated. If you scatter the food on the bedding’s surface, this allows your gerbil to use his or her foraging instincts. 

While seeds are part of their diet, those containing high levels of fat, such as sunflower seeds, should not be given in excessive amounts since this can lead to weight-related issues. Pumpkin seeds are a healthier treat, so you can go for these instead. 




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Irina Ionescu

As a long-term learner and animal lover, Irina helps her readers find the best products and accessories for their pets, as well as the latest training techniques, tips & tricks on how to handle animals.

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